Monday, March 31, 2014

FTC Chairwoman Releases 2013 Annual Highlights

Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez released the agency’s 2013 Annual Highlights today at the Spring Meeting of the American Bar Association’s Section of Antirust Law in Washington emphasizing the agency’s work to protect consumers and promote competition during the past calendar year.

“The hallmark of our work has been, and will continue to be, our ability to adapt established tools – law enforcement, policy initiatives and education – to address economic challenges and technological advances that Congress could never have imagined when it created the FTC,” said Ramirez in her Highlights message.

Statistics and data for the Federal Trade Commission’s activities in 2013
The agency’s Enforcement Highlights address a range of law enforcement actions in industries including health care, technology, and energy and the environment. Promoting competition in the health care and pharmaceutical industries that reduces costs to consumers remains a top priority for the Commission and among the most notable accomplishments last year in this area, the FTC obtained two Supreme Court victories (FTC v. Actavis Inc., and FTC v. Phoebe Putney).

Focusing on the technology sector, the agency took its first actions involving mobile cramming and the Internet of Things. Law enforcement to stop consumer fraud continued to be a high priority for the agency along with its complementary order enforcement program. The FTC’s actions resulted in redress orders of more than $297 million and civil penalty orders of $20 million.

Friday, March 28, 2014

When water doesn't boil

Water boils at 212° Fahrenheit (100° Celsius) at standard pressure. If you take a few drops of water and toss them into a frying pan at 212° Fahrenheit or above, therefore, the water will start to boil. The water makes a sizzling sound as it rapidly evaporates and steam shoots out of the pan.

But sometimes, that doesn't happen. Sometimes, water droplets form in the pan and remain there, not boiling off.

Now I Know asks Why is that?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

2013 County and Economic Development Regions Population Estimates

On March 27th, 2014 the U.S. Census Bureau released the County total population estimates for July 1, 2013. This document from the Program on Applied Demographics at Cornell University highlights some of these estimates and results when aggregating into the Economic Development Regions. The change in population is split in change due to natural increase and due to net-migration. Natural increase is the difference between the number of births and the number of deaths, net-migration the result of people moving in- and out of a region.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mining, Quarrying, Oil and Gas Extraction Booming, per First Results from Census Bureau’s 2012 Economic Census

The mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector of the economy showed tremendous growth from 2007 to 2012 as the number of establishments rose by 26.4 percent, according to the 2012 Economic Census Advance Report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

These results provide the first comprehensive look at the U.S. economy since the 2007 recession. The economic census is the most authoritative and comprehensive source of information about U.S. businesses from the national to the local level. It provides the foundation and benchmark for gross domestic product, monthly retail sales, as well as other indicators of economic performance.

“The economic census is one of the Commerce Department’s most valuable data resources,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said. “By providing a close-up look at millions of U.S. companies in thousands of industries, the economic census is an important tool that informs policy at the local, state and national level, and helps businesses make critical decisions that drive economic growth and job creation. At the Department of Commerce, one of the top priorities of our ‘Open for Business Agenda’ is to make our data easier to access and understand so that it can continue enabling startups, moving markets, protecting life and property, and powering both small and large businesses across the country.”

Revenue for mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction grew 34.2 percent to $555.2 billion from 2007 to 2012. It also was among the fastest growers in employment as the number of employees rose 23.3 percent to 903,641.

“The growth shown by the 2012 Economic Census in the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector supports the population growth we see in parts of the Great Plains,” Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said. “These data drive our understanding of the economy, and when considered in context of our demographic data provide insight into growth trends.”

The 2012 Economic Census Advance Report is the first in a series of industry and geographic area data products.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

HRC Foundation Releases State-By-State Report Detailing LGBT-related Legislation

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation released a comprehensive state-by-state report detailing LGBT-related legislation in 2013, a year marked by huge victories for the LGBT community from statehouses across the nation to the United States Supreme Court. The report indicates that the majority of pro-LGBT legislation came in the form of marriage equality legislation. This is the tenth year HRC has published this comprehensive guide to state legislation affecting LGBT people.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Population Bracketology

Test your knowledge of the relative populations of different geographic areas by participating in the U.S. Census Bureau’s version of “March Madness.” The Census Bureau’s Population Bracketology is an interactive data visualization allowing you to fill out your own bracket based on comparisons of state and metro area population. The objective is to pick the larger population between two metro areas or states and see how close you can come to a perfect score of 63. At the end, visitors can mouse over the choices to see the actual population numbers or view the data table.

The population statistics used in the matchups come from the 2012 population estimates. Other data visualizations can be viewed in the Census Bureau’s online gallery.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Teaching Kids About Taxes: What Are They and Why Do We Pay Them

It’s that time of year when adults are getting paperwork organized and talking about taxes. Kids may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Here is a lesson plan for grades 3 - 5 that can be used to explain what income, property, and sales taxes are and why we pay them.

The IRS has a comprehensive website for teachers and students from middle school through college.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Local government data in NYS

Find information on the fiscal health of your communities and schools, the property tax cap and state spending and payments from the Office of the State Comptroller.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Alzheimer's Disease: 2014 Facts and Figures

The Alzheimer's Association 2014 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report released this week reveals startling statistics on the ever-growing impact of Alzheimer's disease on our nation, including new information on growing death rates, the cost of the disease and the disproportionate burden of Alzheimer's disease on women.

"Despite being the nation's biggest health threat, Alzheimer's disease is still largely misunderstood. Everyone with a brain – male or female, family history or not – is at risk for Alzheimer's."
– Angela Geiger, Alzheimer's Association chief strategy officer

Unless something is done to change the course of the disease, there could be as many as 16 million Americans living with Alzheimer's in 2050, at a cost of $1.2 trillion (in current dollars). This video reveals more staggering facts from this year's report.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

U.S. Agricultural Trade Data

From USDA:

U.S. trade data are collected by U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and compiled and distributed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau using the United States' Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) of 10-digit codes. Updated trade data are released monthly by the Census Bureau.

Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States (FATUS) is a standard USDA aggregation of several thousand HTS codes into 213 agricultural groups most used by the public. This data product presents summary tables of FATUS data for U.S. merchandise trade, U.S. agricultural trade, value of high-value and bulk commodities, and top country export destinations and import sources for total U.S. agricultural trade.

Trade data are presented for three different time periods.

Latest U.S. Agricultural Trade Data: Most current year-to-date, monthly data for total agricultural trade
U.S. Agricultural Trade Data Update: Most current year-todate, monthly data with commodity level detail
Fiscal Year: Annual (Oct.-Sept.) total trade and total agricultural trade
Calendar Year: Annual (Jan.-Dec.) total trade and total agricultural trade

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends

The Millennial generation is forging a distinctive path into adulthood. Now ranging in age from 18 to 331, they are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry— and optimistic about the future.

They are also America’s most racially diverse generation. In all of these dimensions, they are different from today’s older generations. And in many, they are also different from older adults back when they were the age Millennials are now.

Read more from the Pew Research Center.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Women’s Lives and Challenges: Equality and Empowerment since 2000

From the Institute for Child, Youth, and Family Policy

Promoting gender equality and empowering women is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs explicitly recognize that gender equality and women’s empowerment are not only human rights, but also play a powerful role in promoting development and reducing poverty. When women have the same opportunities, access to resources, and life choices as men, the benefits extend far beyond women themselves. As women work to strengthen their families and communities, they foster the education and health of the next generation, hasten economic growth, and strengthen public and private institutions.

A wealth of research has documented the inequities that women face from their earliest years and in every facet of
their lives, including in education, employment, marriage, parenthood, and political participation. Women also face
unique challenges, including meeting their reproductive health needs and the threat of gender-based violence.
Overcoming these challenges and empowering women to fulfill their potential as equal members of society requires
profound changes in attitudes, roles, and behaviors inside the home, at the workplace, and in the community. This report assesses the progress made toward gender equality and women’s empowerment since the MDGs were adopted in 2000. It summarizes findings from 95 surveys conducted by MEASURE DHS in 47 countries from 2000 to 2011. While the largest group of countries comes from sub-Saharan Africa, every region of the developing world is represented.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The placebo effect

The placebo effect is a real phenomenon, first identified in the 1950s and studied ever since, with sometimes surprising results. Take, for example, a 2008 study conducted by a team led by Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University. Ariely and company gathered 82 people and gave them electric shocks in their wrists. Then, each of the test subjects were given one of two pills, shocked again, and asked to compare the pre-pill pain to the post-pill discomfort. Of the first group, 85% said the pill reduced the pain. On the other hand, only 61% of the second group said that the pill did its job. Whatever the researchers gave their "patients" worked -- but the first pill clearly worked better.

It shouldn't surprise you that some of these test subjects received placebos. That, however, is not the case. All of the test subjects received placebos, and on top of that, both groups received the exact thing -- sugar pills of identical size, shape, etc. So why did the first group feel less pain than the second?

SEE the answer at Now I Know.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Data brokers and what they know about you

Check out the 60 Minutes piece last week on data brokers? They have a LOT of info on you.

See also 60 Minutes Overtime; the first and third segments are about the topic.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Rising Costs Hitting Homeowners & Renters Across New York State

Housing costs in New York rose sharply relative to income from 2000 to 2012, with more than half of renters and more than a third of homeowners paying at least 30 percent of their 2012 income for a place to live, according to a report released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“Regardless of where they live, more New Yorkers are feeling pinched by rising housing costs,”DiNapoli said. “When half your income goes to pay for a place to live, you are going to be stretched thin on other every day purchases. This unfortunate trend has troubling implications for our economic growth and for New Yorkers’ quality of life.”

Monday, March 10, 2014

Earthquakes Today website

You may have heard about the magnitude 6.9 earthquake in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Eureka, CA. But did you know that, in the past 24 hours (as of this writing) there were 5.0+ magnitude quakes in Burma, Columbia, Indonesia, and Mexico?

Check out Earthquakes Today.

There are around 500,000 earthquakes each year. 100,000 of these can actually be felt. The largest earthquake ever recorded was a magnitude 9.5 (Mw) in Chile on May 22, 1960. The world's deadliest recorded earthquake occurred in 1556 in central China. It struck a region where most people lived in caves carved from soft rock. These dwellings collapsed during the earthquake, killing an estimated 830,000 people.

Friday, March 7, 2014

These 9 Maps Should Absolutely Outrage Southerners

Look, there are lots of things to love about the South. It's clean and quiet. There's delicious food, good people and often amazing weather. But that's exactly why it makes us so sad to think about all the ways in which the region is struggling today.

First off, poverty rates are a lot higher in the South.

More from HuffPo.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Who Has Speedy Internet in the USA?

Internet speeds are so slow in the USA. But what about within the USA? Not surprisingly, they vary a great deal.

Not only do they vary but how they vary tells us some important things about factors that go beyond monopolies. One good source of information is this article from last year in Gizmodo which breaks the country down by congressional districts and then cross-references that data with income and population density.

One thing pretty clearly are the higher rates in areas of greatest population density. Montana seems to be in a particularly sad place.

More from Talking Points Memo.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What is Start-Up NY? Who is eligible? What are the benefits?

Ten months after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Start-Up NY, which offers 10 years of broad-based tax savings for companies that locate on or near college campuses, school and state officials say the program is generating considerable interest from the business community.

The governor touts Start-Up NY as an economic-development stimulus program that puts New York – upstate in particular – on an even footing with other states that have more business-friendly reputations.

Colleges here and across the state are awaiting formal approval of their tax-free zone boundaries, with an announcement from the state expected soon. But they’re already marketing Start-Up NY to potential partners...

Start-Up NY is meant to encourage start-up companies – or new divisions spun off from existing companies – to hire new employees and set up shop in a zone connected to a college.

The program’s rules ensure the jobs aren't shifted from somewhere else, the benefits go to new hires and the companies receiving the tax breaks have a connection to the schools.

But economic-development experts say it’s hard to say whether any of the tax-incentive programs introduced by the state have had a significant economic impact in New York, while critics say the program rewards new companies at the expense of existing companies.

More from the Buffalo News.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Security data analysis behind the times

From Search Security:

Security vendors often claim that attackers behave in unpredictable ways, but two of the researchers behind Verizon's annual Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) believe vendors can't spot emerging attack trends because they don't use modern data analysis techniques.

Damage caused by simple attacks, slow detection

For all the industry discussion about the evolution of so-called advanced cyberattacks, data ... indicates a select few attack types are responsible for the majority of last year's reported breaches. Despite that consistency, the majority of organizations fail to identify breaches until months after the initial compromise.

Monday, March 3, 2014

IMF study finds inequality is damaging to economic growth

From The Guardian:

The International Monetary Fund has backed economists who argue that inequality is a drag on growth in a discussion paper [PDF] that has also dismissed rightwing theories that efforts to redistribute incomes are self-defeating.

The Washington-based organisation, which advises governments on sustainable growth, said countries with high levels of inequality suffered lower growth than nations that distributed incomes more evenly.

Backing analysis by the Keynesian economist and Nobel prizewinner Joseph Stiglitz, it warned that inequality can also make growth more volatile and create the unstable conditions for a sudden slowdown in GDP growth.

And in what is likely to be viewed as its most controversial conclusion, the IMF said analysis of various efforts to redistribute incomes showed they had a neutral effect on GDP growth.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


The northeastern region is home to many of the nation’s top public universities. This list ranks the top public universities in each state in the northeastern region by their 30 year net return on investment (ROI). The schools are listed in order of lowest to highest 30 yr net ROI for in-state students.
The criteria for inclusion in the list was that each school must be the top ranked school in its state according to U.S. News and World Report.
The purpose of this list is to allow students to compare and contrast the average 30 year net ROI of the top public university in each state for in-state and out-of-state students.

See the list, and the #1 from NYS, from BestValueSchools.